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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Coverage, schmoverage

Here's an earth-shaking revelation: I can't stand NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics.

These are hardly new complaints, of course. The coverage focuses almost exclusively on the American athletes, and pays as little attention as humanly possible to the athletes of other countries. Sports in which Americans have almost no hope of medaling are used as "filler" to occupy the airtime between those sports in which Americans do have a chance of medaling, and they can't ever broadcast the entirety of an event at once. For instance, in last night's short track speed skating 1000M event, NBC aired the semifinals and then cut away to bobsledding or something else for a while before finally returning for the short track final, which pitted American Apolo Anton Ohno against not one, but two, of his biggest rivals from South Korea.

Now, of course, they figure that with the results already being online and readily available well before airtime, people might tune in just to watch that event and switch off the other stuff, so NBC breaks up events so as to maximize the extent to which people are willing to sit around through other stuff waiting. This is annoying, of course, but I can understand the logic behind it.

But here's what really annoyed me last night. In the run-up to the afore-mentioned short track final, the NBC people -- Bob Costas, the guy who sits beside Bob Costas, the short track event announcers, everybody -- made the point of how big a deal short track speed skating is in Korea. Costas went so far as to say that the final, with two Korean skaters against their arch-nemesis Ohno, was for South Korea equivalent to the Super Bowl or the World Series, and pointing out that even though that final race took place at 6:00 a.m. Korean time, that whole country would be turned out to watch it unfold live.

OK, I get that. So here's my question: why didn't NBC bother to have footage of all those Koreans watching the race? That would have made for some compelling TV -- but all we got was Bob Costas sitting in a sterile-looking studio set.

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